Ways to Include Children in Puppy Raising

April 12, 2023

Including Children in Puppy Raising

Bringing a new puppy home can be a core memory for a child. Children are going to want to immediately engage with the puppy. Who wouldn’t? It is important to set expectations early and often for both your family and puppy to help set your household up for success in the long run. Consistency is key with a new puppy! Especially when it comes to housebreaking and general puppy manners. We highly recommend reviewing our blogs before bringing your puppy home and establishing those rules early as a family unit.  

Hand Feeding

Hand feeding a puppy

If you’ve looked at our “Best Ways to Feed Your Puppy” blog, you’ll see we mention hand feeding. Hand feeding, for ages 5 and up, is a fantastic way to get your puppy motivated to work for their kibble and it is also a fantastic way to develop a positive relationship! Hand feeding kibble is an effective and low-effort way that your children can bond with your puppy that doesn’t interfere with formal training. Hand feeding can also help teach your puppy to take food gently from the hand, and develops confidence in children who may be a little timid with the puppy at first. To make it more challenging for your puppy, practice auto-sits, by having your child wait for the puppy to sit without them asking, then offer the kibble.

Name Recognition

For children ages 9 and older, we highly recommend involving them in teaching their puppy how to respond to their name. Earning reinforcement for name recognition is not only fun for your puppy, but it is also a crucial step in getting your puppy to develop the skill of recall.

Name Recognition Exercise:

  • Start off by having a few pieces of kibble in your hand.
  • Say your puppy’s name and then deliver a treat as soon as they look at you.
  • Practice 5-10 repetitions in a row.
  • Once your puppy is readily looking at you when you say their name, you can begin to say their name from a little farther away.
  • Start at 2-3 feet away then say their name. As soon as they look at you, praise, place your hands out in front of you, luring them in towards you, and deliver a treat as soon as they reach you.
  • Once they are mastering this for 5-10 repetitions, you can work on saying their name from farther away, a few feet at a time.

Once your puppy is complying readily with their name from 10 or more feet away, you can begin to make it into a game!

  • Hide around the corner and say their name! Have your puppy seek you out. When they are successful, bridge praise and feed!
  • Try playing with multiple children and adults in the backyard. Have one person say your puppy’s name and reward when they come to them, then have another person across the way say the puppy’s name so your puppy then goes to another person.
  • Continue to alternate people, and soon enough you are playing a little puppy ping pong!
Dog practicing name recognition

Trainer Tip: Avoid repeating your puppy’s name multiple times in a row unless you are ready to reinforce with a treat. You want your puppy to learn that when we say their name, there is intention behind it, such as a command. Otherwise, they may learn to blow you off. If your puppy is struggling to attend to their name, decrease your distance, use a hand lure, and increase the value of the food in hand. Remember, keep it fun!

Body Handling (Puppies under 6 months of age)

It is important to create a positive association for your puppy with hands reaching towards them and physical touch at a young age. This training serves as a preventative measure to help reduce the likelihood of your puppy developing aversive and unwanted behaviors towards physical handling and people reaching for them in the future. This is another great exercise, while supervised, for children ages 9 and up. The earlier you can start with your puppy, the better!

Body Handling Exercise:

  1. Start with your puppy on the ground.
  2. Reach for the puppy and grab their paw.
  3. As soon as you grab the paw, praise and deliver a treat.
  4. You can repeat this with other parts of their body such as their ears, tail, and collar.
Body handling - puppies

You can also flip the puppy on their back in your lap as demonstrated by one of our trainers above if they are doing well with the exercise. If there is an area your puppy is more sensitive to, repeat this exercise with that same area. If you notice your puppy engaging in unwanted behavior such as growling or snapping, discontinue immediately and contact your local behavior consultant.

With these tips, your puppy and family are off to a great headstart on training! If you are looking for more tips on puppy training, you can find additional puppy learning blogs here.